21st Century Test Prep

What is this student doing...

in German 1 class...

the day before a test?

It's a new way of test prep that augments some new methods I'm trying in my foreign-language class this year.

This year, I moved my German 1 class to prioritize conversational skills over book-learning. I threw out my publisher-prepared paper tests and went paperless. I also rearranged the sequence of lessons so I could focus on one sequence at a time: first, making friends with a German; second, talking about one's house and family; and in my most recent unit, we have looked at terms related to school: times, subjects, schools supplies, etc.

In order to practice conversation, I can assign partners in the class--and I do. But there is something about the phone that adds a real advantage to test prep: a degree of anonymity that mirrors one's experience speaking with a native language speaker.

After all, the first question one asks is "Wie hei├čt du?" Maybe even, "Wie geht's?" Then they are off, speaking German and practicing the phrases that they will use on the test tomorrow.

I prepped the students by giving them a review sheet--in English (it's up to them to practice translations) that is a mock-up of the grading sheet that I will use to grade their oral exams (more on that tomorrow).  Here's a screenshot:
One of the most challenging aspects to setting up this lesson has been getting the phone numbers right. Initially, I collected phone numbers, and assigned numbers to half the students. But I hadn't thought things through very well, and number-assigned students called each other and others were left completely without conversation.

Today, I finally figured out how to do it. I set up a Google spreadsheet and assign half the numbers to the other half of the class. Then I created a third column where I took the phone numbers of the original callers and rearranged them to receive a call from students who had received a call in the first round.

Students who didn't have phones (there were four) were assigned to talk to each other, then to switch.

As you can see from the picture, it was a beautiful November morning, so we went outside and made the calls there. With ten minutes left in the class, we reviewed the questions/answers that had been most challenging, and I showed them how to find resources on my web site for review.